The Dutch childcare sector was completely reorganised by the introduction of the 2005 Childcare Act. This Act was perceived as a thoroughly modern piece of legislation, because financial support is redirected from the local authorities to the parents with the aim to increase parental choice. The explicit objective of this childcare reform was to stimulate the operation of market forces, so that childcare providers would respond to parental wishes in an efficient way. Important questions now arise as to the implications of the introduction of market forces in the childcare sector. What are the effects for providers and consumers of the transition from supply to demand financing? Are there signals of increasing internal and external efficiency within the childcare market? Is there indeed more competition, more choice and more quality? These questions are answered in this chapter with reference to the concepts of exit, voice and loyalty as introduced by Hirschman (1970). The chapter concludes that local providers and loyal parents do not by definition generate efficient markets. The very nature of this provision may lead to additional market regulation, aiming at steering and perhaps limiting the choices of providers and parents.
This chapter examines the extent to which disadvantaged children are able to access high quality early childhood education and care in the Netherlands, where ECEC services are strongly divided by social class. Private day care centres provide care for young children whose parents are employed, while publicly funded playgroups mainly serve children from lower income families and minority backgrounds. The authors provide new evidence on the relative quality of care children receive in the two types of programs, using data from the Pre-Cool survey for two year olds. Reassuringly, they find that the average quality of care on offer in playgroups is at least as good as that provided by private day care centres. However, they also find that within the private day care sector, higher income children tend to receive care of higher quality than their lower income peers.
Until recently, Dutch leave policies were very limited. The only policy available was a twelve-week pregnancy and maternity leave for married women. However, by the end of the twentieth century, as a result of the changing family reforms and labour market patterns, leave arrangements had become a major policy issue with debates concentrating on entitlement, length of leave, and income support. This chapter discusses the development of leave policies, specifically parental leave in the Netherlands. This development has involved different interpretations of the purpose of leave and the divisions of responsibilities between the government, parents, and social partners. Starting from the view point in which parental leave was seen as a way to facilitate part-time employment, the Parental Leave Act provided a basic entitlement to take part-time, unpaid leave for a short period of time. It was left to the social partners to supplement this minimum. However, over time, public responsibility for leave has increased. This was evident not only in the increasing number of leave policies, but in the growing public involvement in the provision of income support as well. During this process, the interpretation of parental leave appeared to have changed from a labour market instrument into a more complex instrument intended to facilitate parenthood and the well-being of children.